Big things with little cars

French Friday: Panhard CD

Today I’m finally back to a French Friday with a car that could have come from nowhere else. This has been seen before here, but is now half a world away, it’s the Panhard CD.

Jobjoris first shared this beauty with us earlier in the year and laid out its genesis including its succession to the DB HBR5, so I’m now here to present its racing origins as a Le Mans machine. Following the HBR5, Rene Bonnet and Charles Deutsch parted ways. Panhard wanted a car of their own for the 1962 running of Le Mans, and conveniently Deutsch had drawings for what would likely have been the HBR6, also Panhard powered. This became the CD (for Charles Deutsch) Dyna, of which four would appear at Le Mans after various chassis were seen at the Le Mans trials and the Nurburgring prior. The fiberglass bodywork for these was constructed by Chappe & Gessalin, the coachbuilder you may remember from the CG 1300S which has been featured here a couple of times. The racing CD Dynas had no bumpers, faired in the headlamps, and had spats behind the wheels for improved high speed aero, and as the LM64 would ultimately gain vertical stabilizers in back.

If you squint just right it looks like France...

Using Panhard’s 848cc”Tigre” flat twin (larger in some hillclimbs) and a four speed front wheel drive transaxle, the racing CD was squarely aimed at the Le Mans Index of Performance and Index of Thermal Efficiency prizes, awarded to the car which went the farthest versus some arbitrary standards of engine displacement and thermal energy. As Sports Car Market’s Thor Thorson put it in his piece on CD Le Mans chassis #105, “these favored small, highly aerodynamic cars that were fast for their size rather than being absolutely fast. This was something the French seemed to do very well.” Very true, as these were not the only highly specialized little cars fielded by French manufacturers, and the little Panhards would remarkably return well over 25mpg in race conditions thanks to their very low .22 coefficient of drag (conveniently, CD)! Ultimately gaining a supercharger to take horsepower to a beastly 70, the final CD Dyna Le Mans would be good for nearly 140mph, though I imagine it took some time to get there. That’s ok when you have so little power and good enough roadholding that you can essentially drive a whole lap flat! Eventually Porsche would surpass Panhard for the small-displacement crowns with their own small, aerodynamic, boxer-engined coupes, but these little Panhards set a great precedent and did France proud before MATRA came to town and stomped everyone in the early 70's.

This is the road version, also using the 848cc twin, which was available in two versions. The GT spec used a single Zenith carb for 49hp and a tick over 100mph, the Rallye version two for 59hp and 111mph with a slightly longer gear ratio. Only 179 road-going CDs were sold after delivery started behind schedule in 1963, with production ending in 1965. I imagine they were a bit of a hard sell starting at almost $3,200 new, not far off the price of a new Porsche 356 in period. To me the only detraction to the style is the square headlights, I don’t think they fit too well with the beautiful lines of the body. The faired-in lights on the race cars are much more fitting.


I highly recommend reading the aforementioned Sports Car Market article, the machinations of the French sporting authorities surrounding Lotus’ entries against the CDs is really entertaining. It reminds me of the disqualification of the BMC Minis and other British cars from the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally over headlamp bulbs, gifting Citroen the win, totally ridiculous.

This one cylinder is most of the CD’s displacement

The model is the same 1/43 Altaya Jobjoris featured, and as he said, it’s just great. Really crisp, great paint, faithful lines, and I can’t imagine better colors. Fantastic! I can’t wait to find some Le Mans Panhards, especially an LM64 someday, then I can do a comparison. Sorry it’s been awhile since my last French Friday (or any posts, really), life seems to interfere more lately. I’ve got loads of shoots done but no time for writeups, hopefully more soon. Have a great weekend!

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